Chicago police officers are being lured down south with incentives that go beyond the weather.
On February 20, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at a private event at an Elmhurst banquet hall in Chicago where he encouraged the city’s police officers to relocate to Florida.
“We have this recruitment program in place,” DeSantis said. “If you come and you’re qualified from another a state and join any of our agencies — city, county, state sworn law enforcement — you get a $5,000 signing bonus immediately right off the top.”
The recruitment program was launched last year to fill staffing shortages in the state.
According to DeSantis, 600 police officers moved to Florida by the end of 2022 in search of a better work environment and financial rewards.
“Their morale is very low,” DeSantis said. “We in Florida have an opportunity to capitalize off that.”
CBS Chicago reports that the St. Petersburg Police Department has welcomed eight officers from Chicago to its ranks recently. Officer Matthew Molitor was one of them.
“I’m from the Midwest,” Molitor said. “I’m from the Quad cities originally.”
Molitor was happy to take advantage of the opportunity.
“If you can’t staff, then you can’t put enough officers on the street — and therefore, that’s where your 12-hour days; your canceled days off are coming from. Yeah, morale is definitely going to suffer.”
Former Miami police officer Spero Georgedakis, who owns the storage company called Good Greek Moving & Storage, said that he decided to take advantage of the recruiting efforts by running commercials in Chicago for police officers thinking of relocating.
“I thought, let me help not only promote the program, but help these police officers move to Florida safely, and get their families here,” Georgedakis said.
Molitor expects more officers will be making the move in the coming years. “Down here it seems like, ‘Hey, we want you guys,’ and they’re getting quality over quantity in Florida,” he said.
Florida also offers $25,000 for adoption costs, special needs care and children’s education, as well as $25,000 to help officers purchase a new home, in addition to the $5,000 signing bonus.